Writing in the Journal Gazette Paul Carroll and Chunka Mui had this to say about trying to fix the old post office:
The debate over potential changes at the U.S. Postal Service is like a fight over the dessert bar on the Titanic. Raising first-class postage rates and eliminating Saturday delivery won’t matter much when the Postal Service hits the iceberg. And USPS will do just that, soon, unless there is a re-imagining of its mission.
Their article is about how, unless the Post Office realizes the digital age is here to stay, it will become like Kodak. Remember Kodak? When I was a kid, Kodak meant cameras and photographs. For a long time Kodak dominated until the digital age. It supplied materials for film processing, sold rolls of film, and cameras. Digital cameras and technology swept that all away leaving Kodak behind. At first the company tried holding on but as profits went down, it became clear that it had to face a whole new world. It had to either take advantage of it or end up in the dustbin like many businesses that folded when technology made them obsolete. The Post Office, the writers argue, faces the same problem.
The problem is huge for the old post office. It has a total monopoly on mail delivery in this country. You can put nothing in a mailbox except through an authorized official of the Post Office. And by law private delivery services cannot charge less than what the post office charges. Volume made money for the Post Office– letters, bills, catalogs, magazine subscriptions, and packages. Their only competition was from companies like United Parcel Service that delivered packages. Then the digital age hit allowing people to send messages–and money–electronically. Magazines and catalogs have begun shifting to web sites and mobile use ending their dependence on the costly mail. Some magazines offer web subscriptions and the ability to download their publication to your computer. In twenty years many will be reading their subscriptions electronically on portable displays or at home. Catalogs will shift as well. Why send out thousands of catalogs when a website is cheaper?
The Post Office faces a major crisis. Declining revenue means it cannot afford the salaries it once did. Nor can it afford all those fully paid pensions and health plans either. Merely raising rates and cutting service will do nothing unless it has a real idea of how it will survive in the digital age. Rates will continue to rise, service will only get worse. To carry the metaphor of Titanic a bit further, the day of passenger liners crossing the Atlantic and Pacific are gone. Unless the Post Office adapts, it will end up in decay and rot as the rest of the world leaves it behind.
Source: Journal Gazette, Postal Service Can Save Itself, Learn From Kodak, GM, 26 Jul 2010